Strep throat, medically called streptococcal pharyngitis or streptococcal sore throat, is an infection of the pharynx caused by group A streptococcus bacteria (GAS). Aside from the pharynx, it also affects the tonsils and larynx. Strep throat causes 37% of all sore throat cases among children. One question that is frequently associated with strep throat is this: How long are you contagious with strep throat?
Before answering the question, it is best to first talk about strep throat. Strep throat is actually a contagious infection that is transmitted from one person to another through direct contact. With this, it should be emphasized that children with strep throat should not be sent to school unless treated so to prevent the spread of the infection.
Symptoms associated with strep throat are as follows: sore throat, fever, tonsillar exudates or pus, enlargement of cervical lymph nodes, headache abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain or myalgia, and sometimes palatal petechiae.
Strep throat can be diagnosed from the presenting symptoms alone. However, there are diagnostic tests that can be done. One of which is the threat culture. Throat culture is the gold standard in diagnosing strep throat with a sensitivity of 90-95%. A rapid strep test can also be done with a sensitivity of only 70%.
Treatment of strep throat includes analgesics and antibiotic. Untreated strep throat actually resolves within a few days but with antibiotic, the course of the disease is shortened by 16 hours. Also, antibiotic therapy decrease the risk of complications associated with strep throat such as rheumatic fever, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, scarlet fever, and glomerulonephritis.
The two most commonly used analgesics in strep throat are NSAID or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs and paracetamol. Analgesics alleviate the pain associated with strep throat. Aspirin can be used but not with children because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome where the brain and liver are affected.
When a child is treated with antibiotics for 24 hours, he/she is no longer contagious. In the United States, the most popular antibiotic that is used in treating strep throat is penicillin V. Penicillin V is very effective, safe and most of all does not cost that much. In Europe, Amoxicillin is being used and Benzathine penicillin G in India. Symptoms of strep throat are usually experienced for about 3-5 days. With antibiotic therapy, the symptoms are decreased to about one day. For people who are allergic to penicillin, erythromycin or macrolides could be used as alternatives.
Self medication is highly discouraged. When symptoms of strep throat are noticed, it is best to immediately seek professional advice so to receive appropriate treatment.